Most people are quick to recognize those in a military uniform with a heartfelt “Thank you for your service.” It’s the right thing to do, as we owe the 1% of our fellow citizens who volunteer to defend the rest of us a huge debt.
But alongside our service members, there are often-overlooked people who also bear the sacrifice and burden of military duty. They are the spouses, children, parents, grandparents, and other loved ones of service members, and they deserve our recognition — especially during Military Families Month this November.
Even when the nation is not at war, our military families shoulder a burden few understand. The career of a military spouse must often be sacrificed or curtailed due to frequent moves. Military children are known for making friends quickly, but few pause to consider how often we ask them to leave behind their classmates and teachers.
That is why I see it as my responsibility as a member of the Senate Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs committees to support both our service members and those who love and care for them. I believe we do that in three ways.
First, maintaining the most fearsome and deadly fighting force in the history of the world is the surest way to reduce our need to employ that force. Peace can only be secured through strength.
Second, we must care for veterans when they return home. Those who fight for our country deserve timely access to the healthcare and benefits promised to them and paid for by their service.
And finally, we must support our military families. They take on a great deal of duty at home while their uniformed family member is deployed. And should their loved one pay the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country, those they leave behind should not also face the grief of financial hardship.
Providing that peace of mind was my goal in authoring legislation to raise the maximum service member life insurance benefit for the first time in nearly two decades, and I was proud to see that legislation become law on Oct. 17.
The Supporting Families of the Fallen Act ( S.2794 ) increases the Department of Veterans Affairs Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance and Veterans’ Group Life Insurance maximum coverage amount from $400,000 to $500,000. This amount may seem small to some, but it could be the deciding factor in whether a child goes to college or whether a family can afford to stay in their home.
One of the greatest honors I hold as a U.S. senator is meeting members of our military and their families. The United States has a moral obligation to care for those who put their lives on the line to defend our rights and freedoms. This legislation will affect these families directly, some of whom I’ve heard from since the bill’s passage.
I recently received a letter from an Air Force father in Montgomery who wrote to explain what the legislation’s passage meant to him. A veteran himself, he shared what it was like to watch his son serve on nine different deployments and expressed his appreciation for the increase in insurance benefits. He also reminded me that the cost of a life paid in service to our country can never truly be assessed and repaid.
There is no amount we can give to make up for the loss of a loved one. Nor can we ever fully comprehend the sacrifices made by our service members, veterans, and their families. But we can all commit to doing our part to support them whenever and however we can. It’s rare to see bipartisan bills move through Congress these days, but I hope people can take heart that there remains bipartisan consensus on supporting our military.
The Supporting Families of the Fallen Act is a small way for our country to show our appreciation, but we also recognize that it is not enough. This month, I hope you will seek out a way to honor the families of those who serve. Whether it’s an act of kindness or a simple thanks, your gesture will reassure our military families that our nation remains grateful for their service.